As Summer Winds Down: Houseplants, Winter Squash and Roses

* This is a good time to cast a cold eye on your summering houseplants and ask: would I buy this thing if I were browsing at the nursery? Would I buy it if it were on sale? Would I pick it up if it were sitting on the curb with a “free” sign around its neck? You know what to do if all answers are no. Most of the plants that remain are likely to need cutting back and re-potting before being moved to a shadier spot, which should be done fairly soon. There is still a fair amount of outdoor time left, but it helps to get them used to low light before they must go indoors.

* It takes at least 6 weeks – often more – for a baby winter squash to reach full size and ripen thoroughly , so before long it will be time to tip-prune the vines and remove new fruits and flowers. Plants that can put all their energy into just 4 or 5 large fruits are the ones that produce great squash. Just count back from your expected first frost date to find the optimum pruning time. The vine tips and baby squash are sometimes tasty, sometimes quite bitter. Try sautéing a sample in butter or olive oil before putting all that (potentially) high-end vegetable material on the compost heap.

* If you have been feeding roses, don’t forget to stop. Succulent young growth needs plenty of time to toughen up before cold weather, and you don’t want to encourage the plants to keep making more of it.

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